Florida education chair not guilty of illegal excavation

Tom Grady unanimously acquitted by jury in Key West

Tom Grady pictured while he was in the Florida House between 2008 and 2010. (Florida House of Representatives photo)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A jury has found the chairman of the Florida Board of Education not guilty of illegally excavating in waters around his former property in the Florida Keys.

The 12-member panel unanimously agreed Thursday in Key West federal court that Tom Grady should be acquitted of misdemeanor obstruction of navigable water.

Prosecutors had filed the charge in September, claiming that Grady had excavated in federal waters off Islamorada in April 2017 without proper clearance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Grady's attorney, David Oscar Markus, said in statement that Grady had obtained state and local authorizations and thought he had permission from the Army Corps. Grady’s contractor testified that both he and Grady believed in good faith that they had all of the proper permits.

“This prosecution never should have been brought," Markus said. “It was a politically-motivated persecution, as well as a complete waste of judicial resources and taxpayer dollars.”

Grady had attracted attention in early fall as the Florida education board moved to fine school districts that defied a state ban on mask mandates in the classroom. The board also approved withholding funding from districts that receive federal grants intended to make up for the state fines.